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Cage Specifications: Building a C&C Cage

coroplast specs
Specifications for cutting the coroplast:
1. The vertical black line indicates where the two pieces fit together.
2. The light blue area around the edges shows where the 5-inch sides should be folded up.
3. The yellow corners can either be cut out completely and the sides taped where they meet, or you can keep the corner to wrap around, cutting only at the solid line and folding at the dotted line.
4. The inner corner of the L-shape will leave a hole when the sides are folded up. You must create a small 5"x5" patch of coroplast to fill in.


How We Built the Cubes & Coroplast Cage, Part 2

After creating the cube grid exterior of the cage, the final steps were to form the coroplast base and add the finishing touches.

Coroplast Base

Supplies needed: coroplast, ruler/yardstick/tape measure, t-square (optional),
sharpie, utility knife, cardboard scraps, clear wide tape

What you have to do here, basically, is to build a large plastic box to fit inside your cage perimeter. You will have a distinct advantage if you ever liked to make little paper cubes or boxes as a kid.

You must measure and mark the coroplast for cutting, allowing for the sides to fold up. The fold line for the sides must be scored underneath (but not cut all the way through). Then you fold the sides up to make a "box" bottom and tape them in place at the corners.

Note: A utility knife works well for cutting and scoring the coroplast. I recommend putting a couple layers of cardboard underneath to keep from going through with the knife and damaging your table or floor.

The old adage of "Measure once; cut twice. Measure twice; cut once" is especially true here. There is a lot of measuring to be done. First, you must measure the inside dimensions of the cage area, within the grid perimeter. Then you must add on to your measurements to allow for sides approximately 6 inches tall. Next, you must carefully measure and mark the coroplast for cutting. Repeat these steps if you are adding additional levels to your cage.

We were able to purchase our coroplast in very large sheets of 4 x 8 feet. However, due to the large size of our cage base, we needed to tape together two sections of coroplast to make a large enough area for the cage bottom.

The fact that I had to combine two pieces of coroplast complicated my situation. I had to calculate how to cut each portion of coroplast so that it would fit together correctly. I also had to save enough coroplast to cut a piece out for the loft bottom. In addition, the L-shape made things even trickier.

My approach was to carefully measure everything, calculate the dimensions, and then create a small paper model, approximately to scale. That way, any mistakes could be discovered and corrected easily. One problem I discovered this way was that the inner corner of my L-shape would end up with a "hole" that would have to be patched with a small piece of coroplast. I also was able to correct some mistakes in my design before cutting "the real thing."

I discovered that the most efficient way of laying out the coroplast required limiting my sides to 5 inches in height, instead of the recommended 6. I've often wondered if the sides were just a bit taller, would there be any less bedding and "stuff" kicked out onto my carpet?

Finishing Touches

Once the coroplast bottoms were placed into the cage, we had to finish preparing the cage for its future residents. We used several layers of newspaper to line the bottom of each cage floor. (After the first use, we learned that taping the newspaper sections together helped keep them from being pulled up and chewed on by one of our paper-loving pigs.)

Over the newspaper, we spread a nice, thick layer of CareFresh bedding and patted it down. I've found that it's best to use about two large bags of Carefresh for each cage cleaning. With two guinea pigs in such a large cage, I only needed to clean it about every 3 weeks. Now, with 4 guinea pigs, I clean it every 1-2 weeks. Sometimes, I clean the hayloft in between full cage cleanings.

(Update 3/11/05: Recently, I tried something new for bedding. In between the bottom layers of newspaper and the top layer of CareFresh, I put a middle layer of shredded newspaper (made using our cross-cut paper shredder). It tends to mix with the top layer, creating a nice, thick fluffy bedding, thicker than I could afford with CareFresh alone. The CareFresh keeps it absorbent and smelling fresh, even with my now-four pigs over two weeks.)

Since we had decided to make the loft a hayloft, I put a large bunch of Timothy hay up there and an extra water bottle. In the lower level, I put the food bowls and another water bottle, plus a container that we fill with another type of hay (Orchard Grass, usually). This wonderful hay is available from Oxbow Hay Company.

I chose the back add-in corner as the area in which to place my homemade piggy houses. In addition, I scattered around a few box "huts," made from upside down cardboard boxes with doorways cut out. These are constantly rearranged for variety and provide the pigs with entertainment and "safe" rest areas. They love to run their piggy laps in and out of these boxes. They are constantly rearranging the boxes with their "head-butting." They like to nibble on the cardboard sides to enlarge the doorways. Whenever I temporarily remove the boxes, they run around looking for them and are so relieved to have them returned later.

Once the food, water, and shelter items are added, there is only one more "item" to add to the new cage: your piggies, of course. This is the fun part. They are, at first, overwhelmed with their new environment. But pretty soon, their curiosity gets the best of them, and they cautiously explore their new surroundings. The first time our pigs went up the ramp was a little scary, but then after that, they were fine with it. Now they run up and down the ramp at full speed, usually excited to get new hay, but sometimes just to run as fast as they can for fun. They really love that ramp!

Conclusion

The total area of our C&C cage is about 30 square feet, plenty of room for my now-three guinea pigs!

The final cost of our cage was about $60. This included 2 boxes of storage cube kits at $20 each and two 4'x8' sheets of Coroplast at about $10 each. Since I use one-and-a-half bags of CareFresh ($15 each) each time I do a full cage cleaning, it costs approximately $45 a month to maintain.

I realize that this can be costly, but to me and my pigs it is worth it. If I had a cat or dog, I would probably incur more overall expenses than with my piggies. Just knowing how happy they are in their wonderful C&C cage makes me feel like I am giving them the best life possible. They reward me by being so cute and entertaining and by allowing me to cuddle them on my lap.

Continue on for more photos and descriptions of the cage...

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